Three States Just Introduced Bills to Ban Conversion Therapy on LGBTQ Youth

· Updated on May 28, 2018

Three states introduced legislation this week banning any attempt to “change” the sexual orientation or gender identity of LGBTQ youth.

Arizona, Virginia, and Washington all put forward bills to prohibit the discredited practice often referred to as conversion therapy from being offered within state lines. Condemned by the American Medical Association (AMA) and American Psychological Association (APA), the treatment has already been outlawed in nine states, including California and Vermont.

Two proposals were filed in Virginia this week as the General Assembly convened for the 2018 legislative term. Known as Senate Bill 245 and House Bill 363, the bills were authored, respectively, by Democrats Sen. Scott Surovell and Del. Patrick Hope.

Del. Hope, who has introduced similar legislation for several years, claims it’s the government’s duty to protect “children from the dangers of conversion therapy.”

“Conversion therapy is based on the false assumption that homosexuality is a mental disorder or a sin,” he said in a press release. “It clearly is neither. What is clear is that organized medicine maintains that sexual orientation is not changeable, that conversion therapies do irreparable harm, and that conversion therapies should not be practiced in the Commonwealth of Virginia.”

Sen. Surovell added that conversion therapy is both morally and medically “wrong.”

“Numerous studies show that LGBTQ children who are exposed to this practice have a significantly higher incidence of substance abuse, depression, homelessness and suicide,” he claimed in a statement. “Just as we no longer allow doctors to use leeches and bleeding to cure fevers, Virginia needs to ban this dangerous practice and protect our children.”

Washington Sen. Marko Liias, who put forward a bill banning conversion therapy in the Evergreen State on Thursday, testified about a 14-year-old in his district, Danni, who had been sent to reparative counseling by his parents.

Danni’s therapists forced him to flick “rubber bands on his wrist” and put “rocks in his shoes to teach him that who he was and who he was becoming was wrong,” he said.

Calling conversion therapy “torture,” Lias claimed it “should not take place in Washington.”

His legislation, known as Senate Bill 5722, would update the state’s Uniform Disciplinary Act to define the practice as “unprofessional conduct.” It received a hearing in the Senate Health and Long Term Care Committee on Thursday.

Arizona’s Sen. Sean Bowie put forward Senate Bill 1160 on Friday, which would block conversion therapy from being practiced on LGBTQ minors. The Grand Canyon State has attempted to outlaw any attempt to “cure” the orientation of queer or trans youth in previous legislative terms, but prior efforts have stalled.

The first-term Democrat was unavailable for comment prior to press time, but The Trevor Project championed the move in a statement.

“With 2018 comes an incredible opportunity to protect thousands of LGBTQ youth from the horrors of conversion therapy,” said Sam Brinton, head of advocacy and government affairs for the advocacy organization. “We look forward to building a strong coalition with Senator Bowie to once and for all remind LGBTQ youth in Arizona that they are worthy of love just as they are.”

Last year, Connecticut, Nevada, and New Mexico all moved to ban conversion therapy, although two bills in New Hampshire were voted down earlier this week.

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